Towards A Good Samaritan World

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Pope John Paul II, who died today, led an admirable life. I am not a Catholic, and I do not accept the doctrine of papal infallibility which gives the Catholic Church its distinctive monarcho-hierarchical structure; in this respect I am drawn more to the Orthodox tradition. Yet one can only admire the truth, the power and wisdom that emanate from the Vatican. Though it seems paradoxical, I believe that Christians of all denominations may reflect with gratitude for a moment on the worth of the Christian voice of John Paul II. And perhaps this can lead to the question: Why are there so many Christian denominations, anyway? Is there any way that we who share faith, hope and love in Christ can restore the communion of the faithful that was lost in 1054 (when the popes and the Byzantine patriarchs excommunicated one another) and in 1517 (when Martin Luther initiated a rebellion against the Roman Church)?

John Paul II's life is a rebuke to rigid notions of separation of Church and State. We do not seek to ordain a theocracy, and the Catholic Church has rightly abandoned its former, misguided aspirations to establish a Christian res publica by force. But our religious faith is the source of our ethics, our values and our worldview, and our ethics and values must inform and motivate our involvement in civil and political life. In Poland, the collapse of communism began with the Christian duty to tell the truth.

Who will be the next pope, and what great challenges will the Catholic Church be called upon to face in the next years and decades? Will the next pope aim his teaching against the system of world apartheid by which rich countries shut out immigrants? Will he mobilize the West to assist Africa in its struggle against AIDS? Will he bring the gospel to China, a nation which has achieved wonders of economic growth but, with its own traditions drowned by communism and with communism discredited, has been left with nothing to believe? Will he see the philosophy of mind escape from the physicalist dead end in which it has become trapped, and undergo a transformation, so that it affirms the supernatural soul?

The field is ripe, all ready to harvest. Let the work of God continue.


  • The next Pope could immediately contribute to saving many millions by stamping out the fatuous falsehood spread by many Catholic clergymen, both in Africa and beyond, that condoms offer no protection against HIV. The Catholic Church's rigid adherence to dogma in the face of the worst pandemic in human history, no to mention its alacrity in inventing entirely new scientific fictions, casts a pall over Pope John Paul II's tenure.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:34 PM  

  • Well, I don't really agree with the Church's position on contraception. In general, the ethics of sexuality is somewhat mysterious to me. The simple secularist take on sexual ethics-- do what you feel, maximize pleasure-- is clearly wrong. It misses something about the way sexuality relates to human nature, about the sanctity of the body; it does so because it misunderstands and dismisses the sacred altogether, which is a grave mistake. The Catholics' view seems to contain a certain amount of truth, and when I feel have occasional insights about sexual love they tend to point in the Catholic direction. But the crude condemnation of condoms in all circumstances seems misguided to me.

    By Blogger Lancelot, at 6:39 AM  

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